After sitting out the entirety of the 2017-2018 season with a torn ACL, and a subpar season in 2016-2017 under Earl Watson, the Suns have Brandon Knight on their payroll until 2020. This raises the question: what should the Suns do with Brandon Knight?
The Suns certainly had a vision for Knight when they signed him to a contract for five years/70 million, and he didn’t disappoint for the first two years of that contract. He was a decent passer, and a good scoring option next to Bledsoe. Jeff Hornacek’s system suited Knight very well, and he was exactly what the Suns needed him to be: a fine player.
When the coaching shift was made to Earl Watson, the system changed. Booker became the center of the offense, and Knight’s numbers (to put it politely) dipped. His field goal percentage dropped under 40%, and he went from scoring 19 points per game to just 11. It wasn’t a pretty sight.
After a poor performance in 2016-2017, fans were treated to the news that Knight had torn his ACL in practice before the season and was expected to sit out the whole year. During that year, we’ve seen Devin Booker’s rise to stardom, Josh Jackson become a viable starting option, and Elfrid Payton’s entrance and immediate struggle at the starting point guard position.
A team that can’t find any consistency at point guard has a decently talented point guard on their payroll, and they don’t know what to do with him. Will he be the same quick player coming off an injury? Will Triano’s new system give him more opportunities to show off his scoring ability? All these questions have been swirling around Knight since people remembered he was on the Suns bench.
There are really four options here: waive, start, bench, or trade. Let’s start with the easiest one, waiving Brandon Knight. Just don’t even take the chance. Take the cap hit for the year, and just let him go and let him try and find footing somewhere else. The pros of this are: more roster spots for potential draftees and free agents. The cons of this are: your only remaining point guards are Shaq Harrison and Tyler Ulis (and Elfrid Payton, if they’re willing to pay him). If the Suns roll the dice on this, they could end up hurting. There’s slim pickings in free agency, and the mid-first round draft pick is always difficult to trust (the Suns are using their top pick on DeAndre Ayton don’t even fight me on this).
The next option is to start Knight to begin the year. Don’t worry about Elfrid Payton, let him walk (which is the thing I would do to handle that situation anyway) and start Brandon Knight. He can be an explosive scorer when he wants, and he’s got something to prove. Put him next to Devin Booker and bring that Kentucky Wildcat flare back to the court. The pros are: Booker and Knight are familiar playing next to each other, as they shared the court some in the 2016-2017 season. The cons are: Knight is coming off an injury, and nobody knows if Triano’s system lends itself to a player like Knight.
The third option is to bring him off the bench and move from there. This is probably the safest option. Knight still has the opportunity to show he can start, but the Suns choosing to start him to start next season is a really risky move. Put him on the bench and see if he still has that kick. The pros are: no cap hit, and you might get a diamond in the rough out of it. The cons are: who would start? Ulis? Payton? Sexton? Nobody knows.
The fourth option is the most difficult one: trade. Who wants Brandon Knight? Anybody? Probably not. Suns GM Ryan McDonough hasn’t exactly been known for his ability to work out good trades (Marcus Thornton comes to mind). So, the probability of the Suns getting something good for Knight is relatively low. The pros are: no more Knight salary on the payroll, potentially decent return. The cons are: the remaining point guards are Tyler Ulis and Shaq Harrison.
What would I do with Brandon Knight? I would start him. Why? Triano’s system is relatively guard-centric. If a guy like Elfrid Payton has plenty of scoring opportunities (granted, he never really converts), then Brandon Knight can certainly get his. He has a decent step-back jumper, a nice first step that can return with hard work, and a couple of really good options to pass to. His defense is lacking, but so is the rest of the roster so that’s not really something you can ding him on. Brandon Knight, for the money he’s making, deserves a second chance. And if it doesn’t work out, it really can’t get any worse than this season.